Getty Images

Dan Rooney saw something special in Chuck Noll right from the start. 

Rooney, the Steelers' late owner and president, was just starting to take over control of the organization from his father, Art, when he made the decision to hire Noll as head coach entering the 1969 season. The Steelers were coming off a 2-11-1 season, and the 37-year-old Noll had just helped lead the Baltimore Colts to an NFL championship as the team's defensive coordinator. 

After winning their first game of the season, Noll's Steelers then went on to lose 13 consecutive games to close out the year. Pittsburgh's 1-13 record was tied for the worst record in the NFL. The Bears, the league's other 1-13 team, handily defeated the Steelers when the two teams played that season. In short, it was another disappointing season for a franchise that -- at that point -- had many more losing seasons than winning ones. 

Despite the team's record, Noll spoke positively of his first season during his year-end press conference with the media. 

"We made progress, although it doesn't reflect in the win-loss column," Noll said, via Michael MacCambridge's book: "Chuck Noll: His Life's Work", which detailed the life of Pittsburgh's Hall of Fame coach. "It was progress in areas that are not convertible to just win-loss. Our ultimate goal is the championship. There is talk, 'If we can just be respectable,' but we'll not be satisfied with that. Our goal is the championship, but I don't know when we'll realize it. It's hard to put a time schedule on it." 

Despite the team's record, Rooney saw something in Noll and was impressed with the direction the Steelers were heading in. Rooney's confidence in Noll was exemplified in a meeting Rooney had with Noll following Noll's season-ending press conference. Later that day, Rooney came to Noll's office and placed an envelope on his desk. 

"What's this?" Noll asked. 

"It's a bonus," Rooney said. "For a job well done."

"We're 1-13," Noll replied. "You can't give me a bonus for that." 

After Rooney eventually convinced Noll to accept the check, word got back to him several weeks later that Noll had never cashed the check (he had left it in his office drawer). 

"My father will be hurt if you don't accept the check," Rooney told Noll, who finally took the check home to his wife, Marianne, where he told her, "Put it in a separate account. We're not going to touch it until we've earned it." 

It's safe to say that Noll earned his bonus, and then some. Three years after his 1-13 rookie season, Noll guided the Steelers to the first division title in franchise history. Two years later, Pittsburgh won their first of four Super Bowls during a six-year span while becoming the standard by which all other NFL dynasties are measured. 

Both Noll and Rooney's impact on the Steelers and the NFL has been immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Noll, who was born Jan. 5, 1932 and would turn 91 Thursday, is one of just 10 coaches in league history with over 200 wins. He was tabbed as the Super Bowl 50 Golden Team's head coach in 2016.